President Bola Tinubu has lauded Tony Elumelu for the impact his foundation, Tony Elumelu Foundation (TEF) has had on young people and SMEs in Nigeria and beyond since its inception in 2010.
He also implored Africans, including its political and business leaders, to look inwards instead of undue reliance on international donor funds.
He spoke at the Tony Elumelu Foundation (TEF) and United Nations Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) Generation Unlimited (GENU) Breakfast Roundtable meeting, a side event at the ongoing 78th United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) in New York,on Tuesday.
The event also served as a forum for the launch of the Tony Elumelu Foundation (TEF) Impact Report titled “The Tony Elumelu Foundation Entrepreneurship
Programme: A Decade of Impact.”
Tinubu,who was represented by the Minister for Trade and Industry, Doris Uzoka-Anite, also emphasized the need for local solutions to economic growth and unemployment, while offering incentives to willing investors
He lamented over reliance by Africans on foreign donors, calling for an end to that mindset.
He said: “I don’t think we are doing enough as Africans for Africa. We need to do a lot more. Tony Elumelu has been the major person driving investments in supporting the youths and start-ups.
“We need to challenge ourselves a bit more further. Africa has some of the richest people on the planet. We have a resource-rich continent with huge population of young people.
“We need to take up the challenge upon ourselves as Africans to support one another. It is about time we stopped looking for international organisations for donor funding. We need to go out of that mentality.
“We will rather have donor funds coming in to support what we have on ground already and not then coming to give us a seed or showing us the way. We actually know how to do things. In Africa, we have a rich culture and if we go back to our tradition, there is a whole lot we can learn from each other.”
Speaking on the import of Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs),he said they were the engines of Nigerian and African economic growth, adding that they contributed almost half of national GDP, and more than 80 percent of employment.
Wooing potential investors with promises of right infrastructure provision such as regulations, property rights, access to justice, protection from unfair competition, power, as well as roads to market and ports,Tinubu said: “We must organise the disorganised SME market, and enable greater organisation and formalization.
“We must invest in SMEs. Governments and the private sector have important roles to play in this regard. Our investing must be coordinated, targeted, and generous. This is where the example of the Tony Elumelu Foundation is a worthy role model for all.
“We must create and expand pathways for our SMEs to export their products and services and integrate into global value chains.”
Speaking,Founder TEF, Tony
Elumelu said this highlights the significant contribution of the TEF’s flagship 100 million dollars Entrepreneurship Programme in advancing Africa’s socio-economic development.
He noted that 13 years ago, the foundation took a bold step to rewrite and change Africa by enhancing entrepreneurship development to galvanize African solutions.
He spoke on the seed capital, training and mentoring and networking provided by TEF, adding that: “We have lit a beacon, and we need the beacon to shine brighter and better. To do this, we need the support and collaboration of everyone.
“100 million dollars is a drop of water in the ocean compared to what we need in Africa. Young Africans need economic support. We’ve seen the devastating effect of climate change, how our young ones due to hopelessness are migrating and living in difficult situations. We want to put a stop to that.”
Elumelu emphasized the need for collaboration to prioritize young Africans, bring more women to economic activities and alleviate poverty, adding that “poverty anywhere is a threat to all of us everywhere”.
Sharing the Lagos experience at the gathering, Lagos State Governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, said that TEF’s work aligns with Lagos State programmes on economic empowerment and poverty reduction.
Sanwo-Olu said that collaborative efforts must be evolved to enhance the scale of impact to deepen inclusion, equity and fairness.
Also speaking, Ahunna Eziakonwa, Assistant Administrator and Regional Director for Africa (UNDP) said they partnered TEF due to similar belief in galvanising development across Africa and globally, adding that Africa’s wealth was its population, which constitutes 70 per cent of young, vibrant and innovative Africans.
“It is our loss if we don’t invest in them because that is the future of prosperity,” she said, just as she called for enhanced collaboration and investment to strengthen economic development of African youths.
In her address,TEF’s Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Somachi Chris-Asoluka, said the organisation is the partner of choice for all development agencies across the world who want to transform the way they give to Africa, who want to have a more catalytic, impactful partnership with the African continent.
She said: “The Tony Elumelu foundation is a leading philanthropy in Africa empowering young African entrepreneurs from all 54 African countries.
“We launched our flagship program, the Tony Elumelu foundation Entrepreneurship programme in 2015 with a $100 million commitment by Mr Elumelu and his family.
“His goal was to see 10,000 African entrepreneurs over 10 years, in only eight years, we have more than surpassed that target so date.
“We have funded 18,000 entrepreneurs, disbursing over a 100 million dollars directly as seed capital to these entrepreneurs and they have gone on to create over 400 thousand jobs across all African countries.”